Herbs and nutrients that boost natural immunity
Featured in: Health  |  November 30, 2016

Boost Natural Immunity with these Herbs and Nutrients

Eating right can help you fight the cold season and stay strong all year round.

  |   Edited by Brian Levine

Have you been hearing a lot of sneezing lately? That wouldn’t be surprising. It’s been estimated that Americans come down with one billion colds per year and that the flu accounts for up to 25 million doctor visits on an annual basis. While nothing can guarantee that you won’t catch a cold this year, you can keep germs at bay and boost natural immunity by eating right, exercising consistently, getting enough sleep, and finding a stress-relief method that works for you.

We’ve created a guide for the natural herbs and nutrients that can provide a boost to your immune system.


What It Is

How It Boosts Natural Immunity


Andrographis paniculata, a shrubby annual native to
eastern and southern Asia

Long used by traditional Indian and Chinese healers to treat fever and sore throat; modern research has found it to have anti-infective properties


A type of fiber found in plants and fungi; one source used in supplements is the Western larch (Larix occidentials)

Helps stimulate immune-system components, especially natural killer (NK) cells; has reduced incidence of colds and boosted vaccine response in studies; may help reduce ear infections in children


Astragalus membranaceus, also known as milk vetch root; long used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

Traditionally used for frequent colds, shortness of breath and fatigue; has been shown to heighten the activity of immune cells in a “resting” state in addition to encouraging immune cell proliferation


Also known as purple coneflower, often grown in gardens; several Echinacea species have shown medicinal qualities

Used as an antimicrobial by 19th-century Eclectic practitioners; analyses of clinical data support echinacea’s use in the treatment and prevention of upper respiratory infections 


Allium sativum L., used in cultures around the world as a culinary and medicinal herb


Extracts have demonstrated antimicrobial and immune-stimulant properties; also found to support overall well-being, including cardiovascular health

Green Tea

Camellia sinensis, native to southern and eastern Asia; source of all beverages labeled “tea,” including green

Long valued by Chinese healers for its many medicinal properties; EGCG, tea’s main component, has been found to fight bacteria, fungi and viruses; also available in extract form


Grifola frondosa, a large, edible mushroom also known as “hen of the woods” for its ruffled appearance

Appears to stimulate a wide variety of immune-system components, among them macrophages, cells that engulf and digest microbes, and NK cells; has shown anti-cancer effects

Olive Leaf*

From the same tree, Olea europaea, that produces table olives; native to the Mediterranean area

Traditionally used to ease fevers; contains oleuropein, which fights bacteria and viruses; acts as an
anti-inflammatory and antioxidant; has also been found to lower glucose and blood pressure levels


Lentinus edodes, an edible mushroom native to the Far East and now cultivated commercially

Contains amino acids and B vitamins; helps stimulate the development of immune system cells; also helps to lower cholesterol levels and fight tumors

Vitamin A

Fat-soluble nutrient in animal products such as eggs and dairy; precursors in produce such as carrots and pumpkins

Initially called “the anti-infective vitamin” because of its importance to immune function; also crucial to proper eyesight, gene regulation and fetal development

Vitamin C

A water-soluble nutrient also known as ascorbic acid; found in a variety of produce including citrus fruit and tomatoes

Stimulates a number of immune cells and helps protect them from free-radical damage; also an essential cofactor in numerous enzymatic reactions within the body


A nutritionally essential mineral found in shellfish, beef and other red meats in addition to legumes and nuts

Required for proper development of immunity factors called T cells; even mild deficiency has been linked to impaired immune function; also vital for neurological and reproductive health

*Generally available only in supplement form in the US.

Need more tips on which herbs and nutrients to incorporate into your diet to boost natural immunity? 

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